If the lockdown gave the coaches a headache keeping their flock motivated, resuming training after nearly two months will present them with a different set of difficulties. Getting the hockey players to do the right amount of training to get them back into the groove will be a big challenge for men’s team coach Graham Reid when full training resumes.
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The Australian expert said from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru, where he and the squad are holed up since March, that he is looking forward to getting them back on the turf once the restrictions are lifted.
How difficult has it been to keep the players motivated during this period?
What has perhaps made it a little easier for everyone to handle (the situation) is the fact that the whole world is going through it. Everyone you talk to, wherever they are in the world, they have similar experiences. So, it feels as though we are experiencing things together and this has helped. We’ve had individual meetings with players and discussed their performance over the last 12 months, and where they need to improve. This has resulted in setting tangible goals for each of them.
What special efforts are being taken to keep the players involved with the sport?
We have software that allows the players to analyse the games remotely. Besides, we have quizzes and those sorts of things. In the last 10-odd days, the coaching staff has been interacting a lot with the players, to get to know their stories; where they are from and what got them into hockey. We want players to share their major influences – or, perhaps, a story no one knows – with the team. It’s a great way to get a better understanding of why we are here and what are our goals.
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How difficult has it been for you to be isolated for such a long period?
Personally, it has been very nice. My wife is here with me and she has a job to develop and maintain an online education platform. So, we have our own jobs to do during the day and at night, we have a relatively close resemblance of normal life; things like watching Netflix and listening to music make it bearable. We also like to FaceTime the kids and family, so we feel a little connected to the outside world.
The Indian Olympic Association is in favour of resuming normal training for teams that are isolated at SAI centres. Suppose that happens, how difficult will it be to get the players back to full sessions?
The difficult thing is tempering their comeback so that they don’t get injured. While they have been able to maintain their fitness and strength, hockey has a unique set of movement patterns that are very hard to replicate off the field. So, it will take time to get back to full speed. Covid-19 protocols lend themselves to individual skill-based training. So, we will use the template of our skill-based training and strength and conditioning protocols we used during the pre-Christmas camp in Bhubaneswar last year.
Have the coaches decided on some guidelines/norms for training?
SAI has put together a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the resumption of training and we gave our (Hockey India) version of the SOP earlier, on April 11. We already have these exercises and training programmes planned and will add any extra supporting (social distancing) protocols to ensure players comply. We are looking forward to the government allowing us to return to some form of training as soon as possible. On Thursday, the players, coaches and Hockey India executives had a productive online discussion with the sports minister. It was motivating.
What if the authorities defer training by a few more weeks? Would the players be allowed to visit their families?
Unfortunately, the conditions around the country are not conducive for safe travel. When we feel it is completely safe, we will allow players to visit home.
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